A few days ago it was reported in the Daily Express that in order to protect the UK’s fishing rights after BREXIT, Michael Gove had placed an order for four new fishery protection ships, the first of which will be called HMS Forth. However, the printed photograph is that of HMS Forth, a former WW2 submarine depot ship. If indeed the new HMS Forth is to be another submarine depot ship, it rather suggests the remaining fishery protection vessels will be submarines. This would be a reverse of WW1 history.
During WW1 the Germans recognised the importance of Britain’s fishing industry to its importance as a source of food for the British public. Accordingly, as a form of economic warfare, German submarines were sent to the North Sea to sink fishing vessels by gunfire or explosive. Wise to the German tactics, the RN came up with the concept of Q-trawlers fitted with guns and trained gunners to catch the submarines on the surface. They even came up with a scheme whereby a Q-ship disguised as a trawler would tow a submarine beneath it, connected by a telephone cable. In this way HMS C24 was able to catch the German U-boat U-40 unawares and sink her. So there is a precedent for submarines being used for fishery protection, Mr Gove.